Welcome to your Thursday edition of Sunday’s update. I’m going to try to come up with a way to write these quicker.
I looked at two apartments. One was a little disappointing, and the other was good but a little more expensive than I wanted. On Saturday my plan was to maybe look at another one if it’s available. Possibly I wouldn’t end up moving, especially since I waited kind of late to get started. In that case I’d try again next year and plan things better.
Sunday I watched Incredibles 2. I’d heard it was a great movie, and I agree. But half the reason I went was to see the short at the beginning, Bao. Debates like this one about people’s possibly culture-related confusion over it had made me curious how I’d react. It turns out I loved it, and I cried. I also felt that politicizing the story would kind of ruin it. But I probably will read about the cultural issues eventually, because I care about wrapping my mind around that stuff.
I finished Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works. It was a very helpful overview of important ideas in evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind, with lots of references for further research. I used to think evolutionary psychology was way too speculative to be useful, but now I think it’s at least a helpful way to think about designing an AI: When you have to start from scratch, how might you develop an intelligent agent step by step? One difference, though, is that we can make our agent less klugey. In fact, Kluge by Gary Marcus will probably be my next cogsci book.
One issue I’d like to pursue as a branch off of Pinker’s book is the structure of human motivation apart from any evolutionary roots. Pinker stresses the point that even though our genes’ “motivation” is to replicate themselves in our offspring, that’s not the motivation of the minds our genes produce. The genes create a mind that, for example, loves its family members for their own sake and not because they carry similar genes. But most of the book was about tracing human activity back to its evolutionary benefits. I’d like to look at mental computation in terms of the mind’s own motivations.
A few years ago Nintendo released an emulated version of the original NES system called NES Classic. It sold out really fast, which made everyone mad. Well now they’ve re-released it, and when I got the notification, in a mild panic I jumped on the order button. My order arrived last week, so now I can relive my imaginary childhood in which I had the original console. Like I did with the SNES Classic, I’ve added the included games to my game backlog.
My online friend Matt recommended I listen to NT Wright’s Simply Christian before Surprised by Hope. It was short, so I did. I thought it was a very good overview of basic Christian thought and practice. Some reviewers have docked it points because it can’t settle on an audience, but I didn’t worry about that because I selfishly only care about what I can get from it. And I found it very thought provoking.
The main ideas I gleaned from it were a set of organizing principles for navigating the Christian life. The main one was to live as points of intersection between heaven and earth. This was the idea behind the Temple and the Incarnation, and now it happens in the church. A second was the image that believers are meant to be penciling sketches for the masterpiece of God’s new creation. This expresses the already-not yet status of God’s kingdom. The last was that all of this is meant to be understood by means of love, rather than mere clinical analysis.
I’m listening to these two Wright books back-to-back, so now I’m on Surprised by Hope.
I’ve continued my YouTube explorations of music theory and composition. One of the highlights was this documentary on Allen Forte, whose book on tonal harmony opened my eyes to the world of serious music theory.
My YouTube wanderings are following my typical pattern where I get interested in something, explore it, feel lost in the swirl of details, and then start mapping the territory. With music I’m nearing the mapping stage. This is good, because enthusiasm and random wandering don’t necessarily amount to learning.
On Monday I foolishly passed up the chance to go to a Jacob Collier concert right here in my area. It started at 6:30, and I found out about it at about 2:30 that day. Somehow there were still tickets available. But I rarely (1) go to concerts, (2) make last minute plans, or (3) impulsively spend $25-$50, and at the time I didn’t know if I cared enough about his music. So I skipped it. I regretted it the very next day seeing photos from the event on Twitter. But he was here last year too, so maybe he’ll be around again.
I set up my LMMS installation so I can easily record my noodling at the keyboard. There’s still a little latency I want to reduce, but even with that I can use this setup to study my musical experiments and improve my performance skills.